Grapevine: News from the Paddock - Bahrain GP

Late Flight

Grapevine: News from the Paddock - Bahrain GP

Checking in the late night flight to Bahrain on the Thursday before this weekend's race, the Gulf Air desk came across an unusual outsized luggage item. McLaren, after a last-minute rush, checked in one of their team members to ferry across two race seats - one boxed and one bubble wrapped - to help fit Alex Wurz in the car. The team were forced to make rapid modifications to the MP4-20 machine to fit the lanky Austrian into the cockpit after he was called up to replace Pedro de la Rosa in the Friday testing sessions, and after a late fitting at the factory Wurz flew out to be followed by his seat. All was well on Friday morning, when everything, including Wurz, fitted into the new car - although all the efforts apeared to be worth little when, come first session, the car ground to a halt without setting a competitive lap time.

Cutback Celebrations

After a highly acclaimed arrival on the Grand Prix circuit last year Bahrain appeared to be skimping on their outlay as they begin to realise Formula One is more expensive than they first thought. The broadband internet, which was supplied free of charge to journalists last year, now came at cost and rather than the lavish sea-side late-night welcome party that was put on in 2004 the guests were now invited to a simple drinks get-together in the paddock at six o'clock on Thursday evening. But it was soon clear the Bahrainis have not stopped trying to impress, when it was revealed that the internet only came free last year because of the local phone company and that the 'minor' drinks party was actually a laser-light extravaganza with bands, singing and strange stilted people in funny costumes. It all made for another excellent welcome to the Middle East, until the internet broke down...

Manama March

One such welcome that came as more surprising were the goings on in Manama town centre on the Thursday morning. Ambling around the city to get their bearings a couple of journalists came across a bizarre ceremony in which black-clad women lined the streets to watch men striding shoulder to shoulder through the streets, chanting, waving their samurai-style swords aloft and actually cutting their heads. The trail where the march had gone was covered with drips of blood and several marchers had to break off because of their cuts. The whole parade was followed by an ambulance and remains a bizarre indication that although Formula One provides a worldwide culture the places it visits still have plenty of unique events of their own!

Security Matters

The Bahrain organisers were keen to make the event go on without a hitch and installed unprecedented safety measures throughout the city to ensure the smooth passage of the Formula One circus through the Kingdom. Every fan entering the circuit was forced to have a bag search and walk through an airport-style security gate and, even more astonishingly, every car entering the Ritz-Carlton complex where almost all the drivers and teams were staying had its engine bay and boot checked for any explosive devices at a specially created heavy-duty chicane at the entrance.

Flag Failure

The late disappearance of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya from the list of drivers, through a sporting injury, created last minute hassles for the organisers as well as the McLaren team as all the signage around the circuit had to be changed to replacement driver Pedro de la Rosa. All seemed in order but one eagle-eyed journalist spotted a Colombian flag that had remained in place on the drive-in to the circuit. At least they had de la Rosa covered with the Spanish flag that was already in place for world championship leader Fernando Alonso.

Sand Trap?

From the air, the Bahrain circuit looks like a black tarmac track snaking through the desert landscape, but beneath the 'sand' lies a secret. The run-off areas, which were made of treated sand last year, are now as much tarmac as the race circuit itself. The organisers have laid concrete and a super-grip rubber surface on several areas around the circuit but to maintain the image of Formula One's desert circuit they went to the effort of painting it all back to its previous sandy colour.

shares
comments
Schumacher Fastest in Practice 3 - Bahrain

Previous article

Schumacher Fastest in Practice 3 - Bahrain

Next article

No Practice for Barrichello

No Practice for Barrichello
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Will Gray
What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track Plus

What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track

Mercedes may find itself leading the drivers' and constructors' standings after Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but it is well-aware that it came against the odds, with Red Bull clearly ahead on pace. Here's what the Brackley team must do to avoid its crown slipping

Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent Plus

Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent

While Japan's fever for motor racing is well-documented, the country has yet to produce a Formula 1 superstar – but that could be about to change, says BEN EDWARDS

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration Plus

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration

For too long, F1's richest teams have justified being able to spend as much as they want because that's the way they've always conducted their business. STUART CODLING says that's no reason not to kick a bad habit

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate Plus

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate

It's been a tough start to Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin F1 career, with a lack of pre-season testing mileage followed by an incident-packed Bahrain GP. But two key underlying factors mean a turnaround is not guaranteed

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition Plus

The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition

In 2017 new F1 technical regulations were supposed to add drama - and peg Mercedes back. STUART CODLING looks at the car which, while troubled, set the stage for the wide-bodied Formula 1 era

Formula 1
Apr 13, 2021
The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return Plus

The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return

Three weeks is a long time in Formula 1, but in the reshaped start to the 2021 season the teams head to Imola to pick things up after the frenetic Bahrain opener. Here's what to look out for and the developments to follow at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Formula 1
Apr 13, 2021
The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Plus

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. BEN ANDERSON looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

Formula 1
Apr 12, 2021
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Plus

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says NIGEL ROEBUCK

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021